Large mammals on the move

Some sappers have built Britain’s largest artificial polar bear habitat near Inverness.  Mercedes is headed there from Edinburgh.

Mercedes was estimated to be three years old when she was captured in Churchill, Man., in 1984 after three trips to the city dump.

At the time, the city had a “three-strikes” policy that mandated killing polar bears deemed a threat to local residents.

Mercedes was spared being euthanized by public safety officers when the luxury car company for which she is named paid to have her sent to the Scottish zoo.

Like another bear with Manitoba links that went on to become Britain’s most popular animal — the First World War-era black bear at the London Zoo that inspired the Winnie the Pooh stories — for years, Mercedes was Edinburgh’s top zoo attraction and one of the country’s most recognized creatures.

Four years ago, Mercedes drew attention from the growing international lobby against keeping large mammals captive in zoos. The same movement was highlighted in Canada last month when game show celebrity Bob Barker visited Edmonton and called on its Valley Zoo to transfer Lucy the elephant to a California animal sanctuary.

Lucy is still languishing in Edmonton, though.

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